Dirt and pesticides in horticulture
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CTA. 2005. Dirt and pesticides in horticulture. Rural Radio Resource Pack 05/5. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57460
Willie Makumbe, an agricultural adviser in Zimbabwe, describes typical problems faced by small scale farmers in keeping their produce clean and safe.
Dirt and pesticides in horticulture Cue: Teaching children to wash their hands after going to the toilet is one of the most important lessons of personal hygiene. However, it may not be an easy message for children to understand. Their hands may look clean, so why need to wash them? Microbes and bacteria are dangerous, easily passing from hands to food and into the body where they cause discomfort or even illness. However, they are also tiny - invisible to the eye, and so for children, a difficult enemy to understand. The same problem occurs with vegetables and fruit that are eaten fresh. They may look clean, but between the field and the market there are many opportunities for them to become contaminated by bacteria, risking the health of an unwary customer. Obviously as buyers of fruit and vegetables, we need to ensure that any fresh fruit or vegetables that we eat have been carefully washed, peeled or cooked to make them safe. But what responsibility do farmers have? Can they not also reduce the risks? Willie Makumbe, an agricultural adviser in Zimbabwe, believes that farmers do have a role to play, as he explained recently to Sylvia Jiyane. IN: ?Yes, basically when we are looking ?? OUT: ??will also affect the farmer.? DUR?N 4?59? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Willie Makumbe, on why it is in the interests of farmers themselves to ensure that their horticultural crops are free from bacteria or chemical contamination. Transcript Makumbe Yes, basically when we are looking at farmers, we have got two kinds of farmers in Zimbabwe. We have got the commercial farmer and the small scale farmer. And with the commercial farmer there tend to be some standards which are maintained. But with the communal farmer, or the small scale farmer, when they are harvesting, sometimes they do not have the knowledge that they need to wash their hands, and even the equipment they are using to harvest is not sterilized. Sometimes they reuse the same containers they use to harvest over and over, without cleaning it. And during transportation as well, sometimes because of the desperate situation they find themselves in, they are at times forced to use any kind of transport which is available at that particular time, whether it is clean or not. It could be cabbages, it could be carrots, they just throw it in at the back without plastics or anything to protect the crops. And when the crops get to the market, because of the hectic programmes they normally have, you find that farmers are forced to throw the products on the floor or anywhere, where people are stepping on and walking on, things like that. Then you end up with a lot of contamination along the way, until the time when it gets to the consumer. And you find that most of these markets are located at a bus terminus, where a lot of traffic passes through. It could be human traffic, vehicles, a lot of dust is raised, and there are some toilets nearby, sometimes they are also very contaminated, they are not so clean, flies are coming from the toilets. So basically if you look at the whole scenario, you find that there is a lot of contamination taking place, from harvest all the way to the consumer. Jiyane So that means most of the contamination takes place post-harvest, is that what you are saying? Makumbe Of course yes, most of the contamination in terms of bacteria and diseases, it actually takes place post-harvest. But then also there is contamination of pesticides, obviously that takes place during the production period. And in most cases, farmers do not observe the period between when they spray and when they can harvest. Because, sometimes a farmer is forced to spray before he harvests, a crop of tomatoes for example, and they are just about to ripen. After they have ripened, maybe two days or three days later, the farmer is in a desperate situation, he cannot wait the seven days; maybe it is a chemical like dimethoate for example, which you have to wait seven or 14 days depending on the crop. The farmer is forced to harvest as quickly as he can, and get it onto the market, and he does not advise anyone who is going to come in contact with that product that it has recently been sprayed, and they should wash the product thoroughly. In some situations you will find that, even if the farmers or the consumers are to wash the crop thoroughly, most of the pesticides are systemic, they will be within the product itself. So you find that contamination takes place almost throughout the production period, but in terms of bacteria and diseases, obviously we are talking of post-harvest. Jiyane Earlier on you mentioned standards. Are there any standards in the horticulture industry? Makumbe Yes, there are standards in the horticulture industry, but the only people or the group of farmers who tend to observe the standards are those who are commercial. Firstly, they are able to observe those standards because they can afford to; they are producing on a large scale and they have got the money. But secondly, they also are aware that if they don?t do that their business is going to go down. But for individual small scale farmers it is very very cumbersome and difficult. The only thing they can do is to encourage farmers maybe through the extension messages, which are always going out every time, or maybe some messages through the radio, or putting out pamphlets and things like that. But otherwise it is really difficult to maintain standards as far as small scale farmers are concerned. Jiyane I understand that you mostly deal with the smallholder farmers. What message do you give them in as far as avoiding contamination of horticultural crops is concerned? Makumbe Well basically the advice is keep clean, use clean equipment, disinfect, and observe the pre-harvest interval when you use chemicals. They must be able to read the labels of the chemicals they are using, and do it carefully so at least they know the dangers they are posing to the consumer and themselves when they are using the chemicals. And when they are harvesting, we also give advice as to how best they can handle the products so it does not get contaminated, and they don?t affect consumers who are going to be taking in those products. Because if consumers become sick, or they are affected by the product, obviously they are going to reduce their consumption of that particular product, which will also affect the farmer. End of track.